Movie: As most of you probably know by now, I enjoy watching anime a whole lot and have for decades, since my wayward childhood introduced me to Astroboy, Speed Racer, and a number of lesser known titles. Deep down inside me, I will always enjoy watching those shows, particularly their original Japanese releases, even though anime has come a long way since then. That doesn't mean I can't look back and gag at some of the shows I thought were weak even then (Megazone 23 comes to mind), but I try to weigh the nostalgia with the reality of modern day advances in technology and sophistication. That said, a few series stand the test of time on several levels and while not really able to compete with most of the newer stuff, have an appeal all their own. One such series that pops into my head is the latest release from ADV Films, Aura Battler Dunbine 7: Mysteries Of Byston Well.
The show tells the story of a young man, Show Zama, whom forces from another dimension abduct. Apparently, some people on Earth have powerful auras that allow them to make use of a special kind of technology that powers a form of mech-robot. Otherwise, the dimension is medieval in terms of how things work and a major war is about to start, hence the need for additional pilots. As the series progressed, the lead character finds he's working for the wrong side and switches over to fight with the rebellion. This does not, of course, sit well with the people that brought him there to fight for them. In Aura Battler Dunbine 6, the show continued to show some growth of the lead characters as their personal situations changed. The major development there was the desperation with which Show's group displayed in trying to stem the advances of their enemy. With new enemy battlers being more powerful and plentiful, Givens started taking more dangerous risks in order to protect his ragtag group from annihilation, often with mixed results. Here's a brief breakdown of the 4 episodes included on this seventh DVD, which was the beginning of the second season from Japan.
In Elle's Spiritual Power's, Luft's forces prepared to ready their new super weapon, a battler so powerful and large that it could conceivably end the war in their favor much quicker. Called the Will O Wisp, it had enough juice to fry all but the most powerful battlers in a single shot so Givens decides to make it his top priority to stop the enemy from mass producing them. At the same time, Elle gets a boost in her psychic power by virtue of the passing of her mother while Show and Todd face off.
Next up was Queen Of The Red Storm, an episode that detailed the result of Show's fight in the previous episode. Trapped inside a virtual prison, Show came across another prisoner, a gal he felt unusually connected with, and promises to free both of them before they are killed by the strange monsters that also inhabit the place. As if that weren't enough, spies actively seek the couple out in order to gain favor with their master, making Show's job all the more difficult.
With open warfare taking place all over Byston Well, the crew get to face the wrath of the Will O Wisp in Goraon Takes Off. Unable to fight the behemoth on normal terms, the crew gets a surprise assist in the form of King Foizon, a man with his own mysteries of character, who provides them with a deal that'll help Givens prevail in the fight. The deal provides them with a super battleship of their own, The Goraon, which may not be enough but at least allows them a fighting chance. Foizon is pressed heavily to fight before being over run but his sacrifice provides just enough strength to allow his kingdom a last day in the sun.
Lastly, in Billbine Appears, the mighty King Foizon prepares to make a last sacrifice in his battle against Luft, sacrificing his castle in a final effort to survive. Givens and crew attempt to assist him but find the odds far too stacked against them to reasonably hope for success. With all hope pretty much lost, another face enters the fray, one that doesn't seem all that important, at first.
I actually liked this DVD's episodes more than I should have. Maybe it was the nostalgia in me talking or maybe the shows were showing better cohesiveness but I thought they put some of the missing pieces together for me and that is why I rated this one as Recommended. Yes, there were plenty of limitations on the technical end of things and yes, there were some story twists that seem to be rabbit holes at this time, but I can't help enjoying a show when it nails something fundamental to the core audience as this one did. Without going overboard as in some of the earlier volumes, the show stuck to the basics and succeeded because of it, not in spite of it.
Picture: The picture was presented in 1.33:1 ratio full frame color. There were some scratches on the print but considering its age, that's not a big problem. I didn't notice any artifacts and some of the colors were washed out at times, but ADV did a good job with what they had to work with. This is a problem common to older anime and should be expected although I give ADV credit for cleaning it up a bit more than other companies probably would have, given the likelihood of limited sales.
Sound: The sound was presented in Dolby Digital mono with a choice of either the original Japanese track with English subtitles, an English dub, and the dub with song subtitles. It was a decent audio track for its age but I think the original Japanese track had a distinctive edge over the newer dub track for a host of reasons. It seems like ADV Films spent some time trying to improve the original story but fell slightly shorter than I'd have expected of them.
Extras: There was a paper insert that provided a summary of the story so far. This is a good idea since not everyone buys the volumes in the order they come out (for a number of reasons) and the best way to keep someone interested is if they can identify with the characters and events going on. There were also some trailers to shows like Kino's Journey, Final Fantasy Unlimited, Saint Seiya, Steam Detectives, Full Metal Panic, andOrphen 2: Revenge, a clean opening and closing sequence, and a photogallery included on the DVD.
Final Thoughts: I think this was pretty good for the series but the older anime of yesteryear rarely holds up as well as we'd like so I think fans should get it and those who have yet to see the show, start with the first volumes of the series first. That said, this volume had less filler episodes in it, a trend I noticed in Volume 6 so check it out if you've come this far.
If you enjoy anime, take a look at some of the recommendations by DVDTalk's twisted cast of reviewers in their Best Of Anime article!